Joe Root has started 2021 with a bang, and the England captain could well break a number of Test batting records by the time the year is done.
After two match-winning centuries against Sri Lanka, the England captain celebrated his 100th Test by turning a century into a double on day two against India at Chennai – he’s in some serious form.
Never before had Root hit centuries in two consecutive Tests before the Sri Lankan series – now he’s done it in three. What other feats might he accomplish this year?
With England playing plenty of Test cricket in 2021 – three more Tests in India will be followed by at least seven during the home summer, before the Ashes close out the year – the record for the most Test runs in a calendar year doesn’t seem a completely outlandish prospect.
The current record is held by Mohammad Yousuf, who accrued an extraordinary 1,788 runs in 2006. Root – more than a third of the way there – has had monster years previously too. In 2015, he hit 1,385 runs, and the following year he racked up 1,477. If not Yousuf, the England record of 1,481 runs – held by Michael Vaughan – could be in danger of being broken.
At the very least, Root’s impressive conversion rate this year has left him with a good chance of overhauling Vaughan and Denis Compton’s joint-record for the most Test centuries by an England batsman in a calendar year (6). Having already reached three, Root has equalled his personal-bests from 2014 and 2015. Yousuf holds the world record with nine tons in that golden 2016.
An early hallmark of Root’s centuries this year has been his desire to go big: had he managed to add 14 runs to his first innings in the second Test against Sri Lanka, he would now have three double-centuries in 2021. The record for the most in a calendar year is four, made by Michael Clarke in 2012. Were Root to equal that record, it would take him to seven Test double-centuries, which is the most hit by an Englishman in a career – Wally Hammond is the batsman in question.
His double was also his third as England captain. Only five skippers have managed more. Graeme Smith, Don Bradman and Michael Clarke all have four, Brian Lara has five, and Virat Kohli has seven.
Even if Root fails to hit such extraordinary heights, the end of 2021 could still see him finish as England’s second-highest Test run-scorer. On day two, Root moved past Alec Stewart’s tally of 8,463 runs; last month he overtook David Gower, Kevin Pietersen and Geoffrey Boycott. Graham Gooch is currently second on 8,900. Alastair Cook’s total of 12,472 will have to wait. Not even Root is that good.